On the day Orange County was supposed to move into the state’s Orange Tier for COVID-19 monitoring, the county health officer said a “small, but significant” increase of COVID-19 cases would keep the county in the Red Tier.

During the Orange County Board Of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 29, Dr. Clayton Chau, Orange County Health Care Agency Director and County Health Officer, attributed the small increase of COVID-19 cases to the Labor Day weekend.

“As you know, we’ve been in the Red Tier for three weeks now. Last week we had a week of numbers that would meet the Orange Tier,” he said. “However, when the state released the new calculations today, we will most likely remain in the Red Tier because we did have few days of upticks in numbers – small but significant – that affect our tier system. Those numbers, we believe it was the effect of the Labor Day weekend. We did have a have couple days of high numbers, the week of September 13 to 19, and that’s what kept our numbers to remain in the Red Tier this week.”

Chau added that Orange County would need to remain in the state’s Red Tier for an additional two weeks, before advancing into the Orange Tier.

“That means that as we means forward, we still need to have two weeks of numbers in the Orange Tier, consecutively, to move into the Orange Tier,” he explained to the Board of Supervisors.

In the event Orange County advanced into the less restrictive category, establishments would be able to increase capacity. Bowling alleys and breweries would also be allowed to resume indoor operations.

Considering major universities, like UC Irvine, are preparing to reopening campus for hybrid education, Chau said he has been having monthly calls with higher education officials, and added that most college students and professors are very aware of the risks of COVID-19.

UCI will welcome back 7,500 of its 30,000 student body and provide testing to students and professors each week.

“UCI is planning on testing all students and teachers on a weekly basis, when they bring them in,” Chau said. “Most of the universities in our county are very aware of the situation. Not only are they concentrating issues within the campus, but also working with businesses outside of the campus which students interact with.”

Mandatory testing for all UCI students will begin on Oct. 19, according to information found on UCI’s coronavirus homepage.

Despite not advancing into the less restrictive Orange Tier, the state issued guidance for all Californians that allows more reopening, including playgrounds. On Sept. 28, the California Department of Public Health released a statement announcing more access to public outdoor recreation areas:

“COVID-19 continues to pose a severe risk to communities and requires all people in California to follow necessary precautions and to adapt the way they live and function in light of this ongoing risk. This guidance provides direction on usage of outdoor playgrounds and outdoor recreational facilities (hereafter facilities), to support a safe environment for children and families. It applies to outdoor playgrounds located in parks, campgrounds, and other publicly accessible locations. This guidance does not apply to indoor playgrounds or family entertainment centers.” — California Department of Public Health

In an Instagram post Sept. 30, the city of Irvine shared more information about playgrounds reopening around the city for the first time since March.

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Parents, we have the good news you’ve been waiting for! The State released guidance yesterday allowing outdoor playgrounds to reopen with modifications. You will see our staff taking down tape, disinfecting the playgrounds, and putting up signage with State guidance today. We are excited to have you back! 🤸👏🤩🥳🤸‍♂️   We know many of you want to return to Adventure Playground, and we look to have that open by this weekend. More details to come.    Per the State, playground visitors must comply with specific guidelines including wearing masks (for anyone over age 2) and maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet apart. A complete list of requirements is available at cdph.ca.gov. This guidance does not apply to indoor playgrounds or family entertainment

A post shared by City of Irvine (@cityofirvine) on

On Sept. 30, Orange County reported 194 new COVID-19 cases with 19 deaths. Currently, the county’s testing positivity rate, with 7-day lag, is 3.1 percent. The county’s daily COVID-19 positive cases per 100,000 is 4.4 percent.

In order to meet Orange Tier criteria, Orange County must decrease the number of positive cases per 100,000 to 1.0 – 3.9 new daily cases, and a testing positivity percent between 2.0 – 4.9 percent for two consecutive weeks.